Personality test – Identity Thief review

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By Simon Miraudo
April 3, 2013

Identity Thief is just like Midnight Run, if you wished Robert DeNiro‘s bounty hunter had immediately tranquilised Charles Grodin‘s runner and transported him back unconscious and without complaint. Or, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, if you spent the entirety of its running time hoping Steve Martin and John Candy‘s planes, trains, and automobiles would burst into flames while their characters were still trapped inside. Director Seth Gordon follows up Horrible Bosses – wherein put-upon middle-class guys plotted to assassinate their psychopathic employers – with a similarly distasteful effort. Except, this one isn’t meant to be a black comedy. We’re supposed to feel sympathetic for the subjects here. It had the opposite effect. Bloody murder would have been the only possible happy ending.

Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a well-meaning family man driven into debt by Melissa McCarthy‘s sociopathic over-spender Diana, who swindled him of his name, social security number, and credit card accounts. In an effort to end the police investigation, he pledges to travel from Denver to Florida and bring her back with him, likely kicking and screaming. Little did they realise that the audience would endure the remainder of the film in a similar manner. The first thing I did after returning from the screening was take two painkillers for my throbbing headache. A man can only withstand so much shrill shrieking and faux-screwball antics.

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Screenwriter Craig Mazin is also responsible for The Hangover Part II and a couple of Scary Movies, which is about right. In lieu of actual jokes or funny moments, he resorts to Bateman hitting McCarthy in the head with a guitar, or McCarthy repeatedly punching people in the throat. One scene, in which she attempts to hitch a ride, oh-so briefly reminded me of Claudette Colbert‘s infamous leg-baring moment from It Happened One NightComparing this to a bona fide classic does nobody any favours.

I do appreciate the fact that the financial success of Identity Thief means that brilliant talents like Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are now the most bankable comedy stars in the world (a world in which I’m happy to live in). The few mild chuckles elicited are thanks to Bateman’s now watertight straight-man shtick, and McCarthy’s unflinching devotion to even the most outrageous of personas. Though her personality bandit is downright repellent for the majority of the movie, it’s because she’s a slave to the relentlessly frustrating script. There are no mind games played; Sandy and Diana merely yell at one another. She runs away, he chases after her. Late in the piece, we get her sob story. McCarthy’s a great actress, but if Mazin and Gordon think they can manipulate us with such unearned sincerity, they must consider us bigger suckers than the too-trusting Sandy.

2/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Identity Thief arrives in Australian cinemas April 4, 2013.

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